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After ASHURA

With the end of commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn(a) the life of Muslim Shi’a community returns to normality. Batool Haydar reflects on the dynamic and powerful influence generated by this commemoration.

It is not uncommon to hear people  say “How fast Muharram has come  and gone!” after the day of Ashura,  the day on which the grandson of  the Prophet and his family were slain  in cold blood.  For many of us, the climax of this period  of mourning is the recitation of the Maqtal  (martyrdom epic) of Imam Husayn(a) on  the day of Ashura. While there is a  quieter, deeper atmosphere of grief the  night after the day of Ashura, sadly by  the following day the majority of us  have ‘slept it off’ and returned to our  normal daily lives.  We need to ask ourselves two pertinent  questions in this regard. Are our emotions  for the Prophet and  his family, limited to the  first ten days of Muharram  and the recitations  we hear in the mosque? If  that is so, shouldn’t we be  calling lecturers or eulogists  ‘entertainers’? Are we  not saying to them: “Make  us cry so we do not have  to feel guilty when we  walk out of the mosque and go back to  our daily routines?”  What happened to the energy and  spirit with which we claimed ‘never to  let the message of Husayn(a) die’ during  the first ten nights of Muharram?  I have no doubt that in that moment  of emotion, every one of us means and  believes these words – indeed it is the  miracle of Imam Husayn(a) that his love  awakens even the hearts of the unconscious.  But why do we forget all this so  easily after Ashura?  One explanation for this state of affairs  might be that when it comes to Islam  and Husayn ibn Ali(a), we are still emotional  teenagers.

Perhaps what we have  is a romantic crush on azadari (mourning).  Perhaps we are in love with the  idea of loving Husayn(a) because the  ideals he stood and died for are so noble,  so high that who can help but to  want to be associated with them?  In our minds, we are hopeful (and  sometimes foolishly confident) that  had we been in Karbala on the day  of Ashura, we would have joined the  camp of the Imam(a) without hesitation.  And it is nice to believe this.  But we need to sit back and consider  that we are also laden with responsibilities  and obligations which are not  incommensurate with those felt by the  companions of the Imam; obligations  which may themselves need struggle  and sacrifice.  The one thing that stands out in Karbala  is that no one asked ‘what, how or  ‘when?’ but everyone knew “why?” This  is why we have an excellent example  in 72 different people – from different  tribes, different ages, different walks of  life – all presenting their sacrifice in their  own unique ways, but not one of them  conflicting with the other in purpose.

If  we only step back for a moment and ask  that same question, we might find the  answers to both the issues mentioned  above.  We need to ask: ‘why are we mourning  the Imam(a)?’ To answer this, we will  need to understand the magnitude of  his message and that will force us to  go back to history and read about what  happened in Ashura and the consequences  of that momentous event.  A tradition of the Prophet Muhammad(s)  says: “Surely, there exists in the hearts  of the believers, with respect to the  martyrdom of Husayn(a), a heat that  never subsides.” Did the Ahlul-Bayt(a)  go through so much simply to gain  sympathy and pity for eternity? Was  this the message?  Karbala evokes the strongest emotions  within us because we’re then supposed  to use this emotional high as a springboard  to create a revolution within  ourselves. Yet, if we find that we cannot  do something as simple as change  a single habit in these months for the  better then it only indicates that our  emotions are superficial like those of  the people of Kufa.  We write poetry saying that ‘someday’  the flag of Imam Husayn(a) will fly at  the top of every house. Do we realise  that we are also in some ways passing  the buck? We seem to be waiting for  someone else to do this hard work for us  instead of understanding  that the responsibility of  maintaining the message  of Husayn ibn Ali(a) belongs  to no one else except those  who appreciate the sacrifice  of Husayn.  Let us never think that  we are doing the Prophet  and his family a favour  through anything we do in  their name. The Prophet promised his  beloved daughter Fatimah al-Zahra(a)  that the mourning for Husayn(a) would  be preserved until the end of time.  Whether we decide to be part of it  or not, it will continue. The favour is  on us that we have been blessed with  the knowledge and awareness of the  status and honour of the family of  Muhammad(s). This is a Mercy to us  from God and as such it is up to us to  decide whether or not we show appreciation  for His love and attention.  During the days of mourning, we distanced  ourselves from celebrations  and the frivolities of life. That is why  these are the best days to reflect and  focus on what needs to be changed  in our lives. Let us, this year, liberate  ourselves first – each and every one  of us – before we begin to dream of  liberating the world! •

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